Milktooth

24 Oct

You guys, the new Milktooth EP, Wild Before Our Eyes, has just released and guess what I have for you? Commentary on each song! Singer, David Condos is giving us all insight on the bands new songs. If you’ve listened to the EP and have wondered what the songs are about, how long it took to record the songs, etc…than you’ve come to the right place.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered what the song meant to the artist, so having an opportunity like this one is absolutely fantastic and I’m so excited to share with you David’s reflections.

Sit back, take a listen to the EP, and read through the commentary. If you enjoy the songs, which you will, you can purchase it here.

 

1. O Laredo!
We are excited about sharing this song, not only because of how the recording turned out, but because we’re happy to present it as a tribute to one of our favorite cities that we’ve visited on tour: Laredo, TX.  None of us had been to Laredo before our first show there last year, but it really blew us away.  The people who we met there were so genuinely excited about live music.  It was a breath of fresh air, especially coming from Nashville where we tend to take live music for granted.  So we wanted to write this song for them, as both a form of recognition and encouragement about what they’ve got going on.

This song may have also ended up being the most musically gratifying for us because we put the most work into writing it.  The first bits that we wrote for this song were the parts that would become the second verse.  The rest of the song, however, went through several variations, right up until the week before we went to the studio, before we decided on the final song structure and parts.  We wanted the song to have some musical hints that point to the American Southwest, but we didn’t want it to become a cheesy salsa number that stuck out like a sore thumb among the rest of the EP.  So we had to be aware of not crossing that line while we were writing it.

Another fun thing about recording “O Laredo!” was that Zac had the idea to feature a horn section in the bridge of this song, which is something we had never done before.  We ended up really liking how that turned out, so we added a bit of horns to “Wild Before Our Eyes” and “What You Do To Me” as well.  Also, the title of this song was inspired by a poem that Zac brought to our attention called “Pioneers! O Pioneers!,” which was Walt Whitman’s homage to the spirit of the settlers and explorers of the westward expansion era.

2. In My Blood
As opposed to “O Laredo!,” this song came together more quickly than any of the other songs on the EP.  In fact, this song wouldn’t even be on the EP if our recording schedule hadn’t been pushed back a few days.  Our first day at the studio was supposed to be a Wednesday, but it was postponed til the following Monday.  Since the three of us had already freed up our schedules for working on music that Wednesday, we decided to get together and play through a new song idea that we had toyed around with earlier that month.  To our surprise, that song idea became “In My Blood” that night and we recorded it a few days later.

The lyrics for this song, like several of the songs on the EP, are personal for me because I wrote it about driving from Nashville to St Louis to ask my wife, Julie, to marry me.  Although waiting through that 5 hour drive was excruciating at the time, it was a big part of a day that I’ll never forget.  As a result, this song might be the most straightforward love song that I’ve ever written.  Zac, Adam and I all got married during the year that we were writing this record, so I’d say that those experiences definitely helped to shape the songs on this EP.

3. The Gate
I wrote this song’s basic musical idea last year for a compilation of classic poetry pieces set to music.  That compilation never ended up being released, but I really didn’t want to let this music go to waste.  So I wrote completely new lyrics, and it became “The Gate.”  Lyrically, this song was written about the year and a half that my wife and I spent in a long-distance relationship before we were married.  That year and a half consisted of a lot of weekend road trips back and forth between Nashville and St Louis, and one of the hardest parts of that situation was having to drive away from her when a weekend in St Louis would come to an end.  I actually came up with a good portion of this song’s lyrics while I was driving home from one of those weekends.

Musically, we wanted this song to have a slow, steady build and we were excited to have our good friend Patrick Damphier record some of the soundscapes and guitar parts that helped that build work so well.  Patrick’s a really talented guy who plays bass in The Mynabirds and also has a great solo project called Field Days.

4. Wild Before Our Eyes
Writing this song was a bit of a drawn out process.  It started with a musical idea of Zac’s, which ended up basically being the first verse.  We put some work into this song a couple months before we went to the studio, and although we did create a basic idea for the chorus, the whole song just wasn’t coming together as we hoped.  So, we set it aside for a while to put some finishing touches on “O Laredo!” and “Skeletons In The Living.”

During that time, I made an acoustic demo of the music that we had written so far, with the intention of using that demo to write some vocal melodies that might help this song turn the corner.  Basically, I would wake up in the morning, sit in front of my laptop and listen to the demo on repeat while I sang whatever melodies came into my head.  I would record the melodies as I sang them, so I could go back and listen afterwards.  I would keep what I liked, delete what I didn’t like and start the process over again.  I wouldn’t want to write every song in that way, but for this one, I think it ended up helping me focus on what needed to be done.

One fun musical aspect of this song is that we got to feature our first analog synth, which I bought on a whim the week before we went to the studio.  The synth parts almost didn’t make it onto the record because it came down to the last day of overdubs and we were running out of time.  But I talked our producer into letting me track a couple takes with it, and we ended up really loving what it brought to this song, as well as “O Laredo!”

5. What You Do To Me
Along with “The Gate,” this is one of the two songs that we had played live on a regular basis prior to going to the studio.  While there are some good things about recording a song while it is brand new and still in the formative stages, like we did with “In My Blood,” there is also something nice about being able to refine a new song out on the road.  Along with giving us more time to polish our parts, road testing a song can help us discover what the audience responds to and what feels right in the live setting.

Also, this song might be our personal favorite to play live.  Since it starts off so quiet and controlled, it makes the dynamic bursts feel that much more feral and savage.  Especially in the live setting, we love to take any opportunity we can to create and experience those moments.

6. Skeletons In The Living
I’m really glad this song is on the EP because I feel like it provides a nice departure from the rest of the songs, both lyrically and musically.  Lyrically, this song revolves around the question of whether or not someone can move on from who he used to be and the fear of facing exposure.  While it is still related to relationships and the risk that you feel when you open yourself up to another person, this was definitely new territory for me as a lyricist.  At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to write a song about this, but I’m ultimately glad that I did.

Musically, this was one of the songs that we got really excited about in the studio because we brought in some friends of ours who are incredible string players: Benjamin Kaufman and Markus Midkiff (of Kopecky Family Band).  Zac, Adam and I consider ourselves to be somewhat competent at our usual instruments, but being in the room with classically-trained string players is a humbling and inspiring experience.  Those guys are on an entirely different level.  So it was exciting for us to sit there and listen to them take our song to a new place.  This song is pretty open and delicate, relative to our other material, so we relished the opportunity to let the strings fill that space with mournful beauty.

7. Some Things Cannot Be Undone
I’ve heard some people misinterpret the title of this song and think that it is about regret or wanting to take back an action that has been committed.  But it is actually the opposite of that.  This song is a tribute to the eternality of the few things in our lives that have some kind of lastingness and how good it can feel to just rest and be satisfied in that.  In my case, I wrote this about becoming married.

We had a lot of fun in the studio experimenting with different ways to create an eerie soundscape for this song.  Aside from the horns and strings, the instrumentation on the rest of the EP’s songs is relatively simple.  But on this song, we allowed ourselves to go a little overboard.  I love creating tonal feedback sounds using my hollowbody guitar, so this song was a big playground for me.  It may not sound all that groundbreaking, but this is also the first Milktooth song ever to feature an acoustic piano, which was played by Adam.  We even brought in a metal trash can lid from Zac’s garage and a set of wind chimes from our producer’s back yard for percussion.  It was some serious fun.

We love how this song works musically as a closer for the EP, but I’m also really happy with ending the EP on the last lyric of this song (“And it felt good to know that some things cannot be undone”).  It seems appropriate, not only as a general closing statement, but also as a way to sum up the EP’s overarching narrative about how potent and compelling love can be.

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